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The Abruzzo
Our way now led north. With the objective of visiting a new part of Italy, I chose the Abruzzo region. This area is situated right in the center of Italy, and ecompasses the highest mountains in the Appenine chain. There are many medieval towns and castles in the Abruzzo, and there are also many parks and natural areas. We chose one of these - the National park of the Majella. The Majella is one of the higher mountain massifs in the Abruzzo, and it promised the opportunity for some good mountain hiking
medeival abruzzo hilltown
The drive into the Abruzzo was wonderful. In the late-day light, rolling hills of golden farmlands gave way to views of the high, barren, snow-patched highlands of the Majella mountains ("Maiella" in Italian). We aimed for the small town of Campo di Giove, hoping to find a campsite called 'Ursa Minore' (that I'd seen online on the web a few weeks before). Try as I might, though, we could not find it. We drove back and forth through beautiful high country in the national park, and, as dusk approached, we decided to stay at a strange-looking rotunda-like hotel at a high pass in the park. The place was practically deserted, but fortunately still open. Our stay there was pleasant enough, if a bit expensive.
The Maiella
Our plan was to climb to the highest point in the Majella - Monte Amaro. At over 2700m (9000+ ft), it was a good stiff climb from the 4000-foot valley we were in. The day was perfect, weather-wise, and we located the trailhead very quickly. The only fly in the ointment was that we had little in the way of hiking food for the day, partially a result of our unplanned hotel stay (if we had located and camped in our 'elusive' campground, we would have driven past a grocery store on the way to the trailhead).

Fields, Forest, Alpine
Trail leading up
Andrew in an alpine meadow
The trail (CAI #13) was very nice, however, leading from the highway's edge through lower-altitude forest, then into wonderful open meadows. It was well-marked and grew steadily steeper as it approached the steep scree and short cliff bands that guarded the high-altitude plateau of the majella massif. Quite a grind this hike is! You gain over 3000ft / 1000m in just a couple of kilometres.
Junction Sign
Rock and Sky
There's Cows Up Here!
At 8000 feet (2500-ish metres), we crested the steep section and entered the treeless world of the high plateau of the Majella. There were actually bell-ringing cows in a shallow depression near us. What would possess them to lug their bulk all the way up here? Monte Amaro was nowhere in sight, and the trail led gently up a wide valley in the plateau. Onwards.

Carefully rationing my 1 energy bar, we made our way up the much more gently sloped trail, even crossing a few snow fields along the way. We encountered a guide-led group of very unprepared-looking teenagers. Probably they had spent the night at the bivuoac located near the summit.
Alpine flowers
Andrew hikes up
Climbing to Monte Amaro
Soon we could see the summit of Monte Amaro, which I wildly misjudged as being only a km away (it was actually more than 3km away!). The little orange dot of the bivacco (bivouac) could clearly be seen next to the summit. The terrain all around is was characterized by barren but gentle scree slopes, hilltops, and valleys, with a couple of low cliffs here and there. Vegetation was limited to a few clumps of brightly colored alpine wildflowers. Relatively benign terrain, with no technical difficulties, although I imagine the biggest concern in this vast expanse of exposed terrain would be bad weather. Not a place to be caught in in a storm!

Our trail continued its gradual ascent, revealing more and more of the vast alpine area of the massif. We began to feel a bit of thin air as we climbed towards 9000 feet - this was a good little acclimatization intro! Mid-day clouds sprung up around us, blocking some of our views but never totally enveloping us. The final grind to the summit was over relatively quickly, and we were there, with the alien-looking orange goedesic dome of the bivacco and the rock-filled iron cross of the summit marker. Total distance to summit was 11 and a half kilometres.
Jenn in the high alpine
Jenn and Bivacco
Andrew on Monte Amaro
From the top of Monte Amaro we could see all the way down to the trailhead, 5,000 feet below. It was fairly cool and windy at the summit, and had our couple of mouthfuls of precious food inside the orange bivacco. Unfortunately, It was fairly heavily graffiti'ed on the inside.

The 11.5 kilometre walk back to the trailhead was remarkably quick, thanks mostly to the fact that the trail has very good footing for almost its entire length. We were back down within a couple of hours, giving us lots of time to get some groceries (we were clean out) and to properly locate our elusive campsite in the nearby town of Campo di Giove.
Valley of Dead Women
Limestone Pavement
Blue alpine flowers
It took us quite a while and a lot of asking to finally locate the Ursa Minore campground. Turns out that it is one of the simplest of campgrounds that we encountered on our trip. It is situated such that you get very nice views of the surrounding abruzzo countryside, though, and it is quite inexpensive.
Re-traversing the plateau
Jolly Italian Hikers
Camping Ursa Minore
(If you are interesting in seeing a more in-depth set of pictures of our visit to the Majella and our climb of Monte Amaro, click here.) Otherwise, to keep reading this narrative, select the 'next page' button below.
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[ Italy 2005 trip home page | The main trip report | Family | Monte Cervialto | Herculaneum & Vesuvius | Palace of Caserta | Amalfi & Capri | Abruzzo & Monte Amaro | Rome | Tuscany | Venice | The Biennale | Via Ferrata-ing in the dolomites | Climbing in the Ortles | Gottfried's Adventures | Maps, Graphs & GPS Data ]

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